Iron in Pregnancy

Iron is an essential mineral for pregnant women. If women are not able to achieve adequate iron intake from their diets then a supplement is recommended.

Anemia, or a lack of iron in the blood, is common during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimester.   Therefore, you should ensure that you are getting enough iron in the foods you eat, and possibly through a supplement.  Red meat is an excellent source of iron, as are enriched breakfast cereals, cooked beans and lentils, blackstrap molasses and pumpkin seeds. If you are concerned that you may be anemic, talk to your doctor immediately.

This is very important for women who can easily become deficient, such as women who are having twins, heavy smokers, and women who are complete vegetarians.

Iron is also an essential part of the growth of the placenta, baby and the mom’s blood. In the second trimester the body goes through changes causing many women to become anemic because of the fast growing body and baby.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that pregnant women consume at least 30mg of iron every day. Consuming adequate iron every day helps prevent anemia as well has reduce the occurrence of low birth weight babies

You should always check with your healthcare provider about taking additional iron because taking too much can lead to iron toxicity. The minimum amount of daily iron for pregnant women is 30mg per day. The best source of dietary iron is from meat sources also called heme iron these include:

Top meat sources of heme iron

  • Chicken liver
  • Beef liver
  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Chicken (dark meat has more)
  • Pork

Top non-meat sources of nonheme-iron

  • Ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, iron-fortified
  • Hot cereals such as cream of wheat or oatmeal
  • Tofu
  • Kidney beans, lentils, black eye peas
  • Baked potato with skin
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Dried peaches
  • Raisins
  • Soy milk
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Spinach

Other methods to increase iron

1. Eat a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables

2. Use and Iron skillet for cooking to increase iron in the foods cooked.

3.Take iron with foods that contain Vitamin C to help increase absorption such as: grapefruit juice, oranges, strawberries, red peppers and broccoli.

4. Look for protein bars that contain iron, great source of iron and protein!

5. Avoid taking iron with foods that will decrease absorption such as milk, coffee, tea and fiber.

Call your healthcare provider if you are experiencing these signs of Anemia:

  • Weakness
  • Feeling tired often
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Frequent infections
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty exercising (due to shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat)
  • Strange food cravings such as chalk, clay, ice or dirt

The office of Dietary Supplements from the National Institute of Health has a great resource on Iron: click here